Em and Rih provide a personal, much-needed jolt to their formulaic new single
When you are the biggest selling hip-hop act of all time, you tend to embrace your inner-corn. After all, there are millions of albums to be sold, more unavoidable singles to dominate the pop radio landscape. Indeed, for over a decade, Eminem has never been particularly shy about his stadium rap agenda. The Detroit MC has mastered the art of the BIG anthem that—depending on where you stand—is the type of lighter-flickering material that’s either savvy hit-making or a formulaic lay-up beneath the sizable talents of one of rap’s most gifted writers.
“Monster,” the second official single from Eminem’s upcoming eighth studio release The Marshal Mathers LP 2, fits in the same platinum box as other hit-or-bust Slim Shady records: “Sing For The Moment” (2003), “Like Toy Soldiers” (2004), and “Not Afraid” (2010). With seemingly unstoppable pop princess Rihanna manning the hook, “Monster” aims to recapture the across-the-board success of the unlikely pair’s 2010 worldwide behemoth “Love The Way You Lie.” And the results are glaringly uneven. This doesn’t emote the soaring populace production of say “Lose Yourself.” Yet Eminem gets sneaky with the rhymes. “Ironic ‘cause I think I’m getting so huge I need a shrink/I’m beginning to lose sleep: one sheep, two sheep/Going cuckoo and cooky as Kool Keith/But I’m actually weirder than you think…” As a recovering drug addict, Mr. Marshall has stared down the man below and lived to tell the tale. Which is why you tend to believe the guy when he claims, “The very thing that I love is killing me and I can’t conquer it.”
“Monster” is all about coming to terms with one’s inner darkness. “I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed/Get along with the voices inside of my head,” sings Rih Rih, who has faced her own damaged pretty-girl drama throughout her white-hot time in the spotlight. Yes, Eminem can—and has—done much better. But if he’s going to continue to create these camp fire numbers, it’s better to offer such illuminating substance on an otherwise pandering product. —Keith Murphy (@murphdogg29)